How do we avoid teaching on the image of God in the way prosperity preachers do?

Burk Parsons & 2 others
2 Min Read

PARSONS: I am not entirely certain about all that prosperity preachers teach concerning the imago Dei, the image of God in man. We need to emphasize, of course, what the Bible emphasizes on the image of God and have a very high view of man. From the beginning of his ministry, Dr. Sproul emphasized a high view of man in the way in which we honor and respect others because every individual is made in the image of God. We saw throughout Dr. Sproul’s ministry that he showed fairness, kindness, and respect to all individuals no matter their socioeconomic or sociocultural background or race. He showed respect, honor, love, and fairness to all human beings. Too often, we see just the opposite of that.

Among prosperity preaching, there seems to be a preying upon certain peoples from certain backgrounds and socioeconomic classes. We are to show honor and respect, however, to all those upon whom God has given dignity, those made in His image.

NICHOLS: One thing that helps here is if we think of human beings as having both dignity and depravity, recognizing that it is a fallen world. That is a huge problem for the prosperity gospel. It does not see this world as fallen or “fallen-falling,” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it. The prosperity gospel has a naive view of the impact of the fall, the role of suffering in people’s lives, and even being human—our frailty as part of being human and as a result of the fall.

The biblical portrayal of who we are is complex, as we are both beings of dignity and depravity. If we relax that tension either way, we will end up with a problematic worldview and anthropology. Ultimately, we will not have the right gospel but a false one, and you see that in the prosperity gospel. It is a false gospel because it has a false understanding of everything—God, Christ, and man.

THOMAS: I have had something of an obsession with Job for pretty much all my adult life. Job’s friends were prosperity gospel preachers. They claimed that Job did not have health and wealth because he had sinned in some way, that he did not have enough faith. That is classic health and wealth preaching. In the context of the book of Job, that teaching is wicked. It is wrong because God says it is wrong.

I frequently hear about folks suffering from cancer and going through chemotherapy, radiation, possible surgery, and so on, who have Christians saying that they should not do that but just trust and believe. That is so unhelpful, which is not a strong enough word for what they are suggesting. So, there is an aspect of health and wealth that wants to come across as helpful but often turns out to be wicked.

This is a transcript of Burk Parsons’, Stephen Nichols’, and Derek Thomas’ answers from our Made in the Image of God event and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.